I usually don’t make the point of promoting anyone else’s work but my friend Jen (of Big Suit blog) wrote this phenomenal essay on her experience as a fat woman. If there’s one thing you do tonight, it should be taking the time to read this.
Jen perfectly sums up her experience as a fat woman learning to comes to terms with her body. Any confident, fat woman can appreciate this essay and what it stands for.
Picture this: I am roughly 12-years-old, most likely in a stretched-out Mets t-shirt (partly because I didn’t care, but mostly because I didn’t know any better) and fleece-lined sweat pants (see previous parenthetical aside), and I weigh 75 pounds more than most of my friends. It is a good thing that on this particular day in the sixth grade, a girl named Jessica told me that my pants made me look fat, because otherwise, I would have been unaware. Humiliated, I sunk lower into my desk seat, covering my face with my unassuming, unstyled hair. Later that night, I would lock myself in my room and cry. I would forget to take off my glasses, which I have been wearing since the fourth grade. The lenses would be flecked with little white spots. If you have ever worn glasses while crying, you understand this phenomena.
This was not even the first time such a thing happened. Once, we went swimming during gym class. I didn’t have the best body, but I could get away with a bikini. In that chlorine-filled auditorium, I sauntered on over to the bleachers and took a seat next to the boy I had a crush on. He told me my stomach “looked like his grandpa’s” and walked away. I was horrified. I was Ugly.
At this tender age, I resented those who were smaller than me. Forget looking like the girl on the magazine cover; I just wanted to look like the girls in my class. Girls at the mall. Girls in my family. Any girl who didn’t have to wear baggy clothes to hide her body – that’s who I wanted to look like. Sometimes, I would even think downright nasty thoughts. I’d see a skinny girl with an ugly face and feel like it was so unfair that someone like me, who had a nice face, got the short straw when it came to bodies and someone so unfortunate came out on top. I guess I was kind of a bitch.
It’s not like I even ate anything that bad for me. I wasn’t eating salad, but I wasn’t gorging on McDonald’s either. And since I was depressed all of the time anyway, I had no appetite. The concept of “comfort food” is bizarre to me. I guess I was just blessed with poor genes. I’d look at my mom; I’d take note of her shape. Wide hips, big ass. My grandma was the same way. Together, they went to Weight Watchers’ meetings. They’d come home and flip through recipe books and count points and they even bought a treadmill to work out on.
So eventually, I joined them. My mom counted my points and when I got home from school, I walked on the treadmill. My motivation was that perfect body. I weighed myself every couple days. I was not making much progress. I slipped deeper into depression. If a diet and exercise regiment didn’t work, my options were becoming even more limited: Liposuction. Maybe an eating disorder. Contracting some sort of disease.
In the meantime, I was counting down the days until I was out of grammar school forever. Everyone there obviously knew I was fat, and they did not let me forget it. I was looking forward to starting over in a school where maybe if my shirt was big enough and my hair covered enough of my face, they would not notice I was fat.
I went to high school in another city. An all-girls’ school. No boys to feel awkward around. Perfect. I was nervous on that first day – my hair was still just a formless mop hanging out on my head, body still big – but I had a chance to start over with new people. I was brave for a little while. I was brave enough to make new friends and hang out with their guy friends. I was brave enough to smile and say “thanks” when we met new boys and they dated my friends and referred to me as “One of the Guys.” It’s okay; they weren’t my type anyways.
Not that it mattered. My very first boyfriend, Dave, was an absolute mess. Everything I would never want in a boy. Short. Blonde. Republican. He told those kind of jokes that you laugh at to be polite but secretly, you are embarrassed for the person telling them. We listened to Bruce Springsteen and Howard Stern in his car. I hated him, but he told me he loved me so I clung to him in desperation.
Five months and one hideous diamond necklace later, I called it quits with dear old Dave. I came to realize that being with him only made me feel worse about myself. I was quite obviously settling in every possible way, and the only reason why was because I was Fat, and therefore too ugly to date the boys I wanted to be with. After I broke up with Dave, I knew I needed a serious change, and if I couldn’t lose weight…I needed to try something else.
Just before I made the move to college, I cut off all my hair. I got layers. I flipped those layers out every morning with a curling iron. I hair sprayed the hell out of each curl so it would hold all day. I felt a little better about myself, but slightly annoyed that I had to put so much more effort into how I looked because I was fatter than everyone else. When you are fat, you cannot take the easy way out. Otherwise, you become a statistic. At the time, I was just trying not to get made fun of anymore.
About two weeks into school, I got a Facebook message from a decent-enough-looking-guy who told me I was cute. Looking at his profile, I noticed he had “fat girls” listed under his interests. I re-read it a few times, highlighting the text to make sure I wasn’t imagining it. I felt very strange having this information presented to me. Part of me was severely offended. My whole life was spent trying to hide this blatantly obvious fact about myself. Was this guy messaging me because he noticed? The other part of me was convinced that it was a joke. This guy, Dan, was obviously trying to prank me. No one thinks fat girls are cute. No one thought I was cute.
We started talking, and it turned out that we actually had a fair amount of things in common – English majors with an ear for good music and a pretentious enough taste in films. (“Have you ever seenBoondock Saints?” “Blaaarghh!”) Occasionally, he’d slip in a reminder that I was attractive…he never once used the F-word though. He eventually started asking me if I’d want to meet up some time, I was too curious not to agree to hang out, and besides, I wasn’t really used to this sort of attention.
My roommate Amanda, who I had been friends with since high school, was there to witness my freak-out at the potential of Dating An Actual Cute Boy. Eyeing me up and down, she told me she “wasn’t expecting me to meet someone so soon.” At the time, I thought it was kind of a messed up thing to say. Actually, I still think it’s pretty messed up. Nonetheless, she helped me get ready for my first date.
I’ll never forget it. Dan showed up at my dorm and, much like Amanda, eyed me up and down. But it was a very different kind of eyeing up and down. It made me feel a little excited. It also made me feel nauseous.
Standing next to him, I felt huge. He was the same height as me, but very tiny. Skinny arms, knobby knees. I was all flesh. I felt like I could break him just by looking at him. I was waiting for him to punch me on the shoulder and say, “Just kidding! I think fat girls are gross, just like everyone else!” But he didn’t. Instead, he sat on my bed and got comfortable. I gulped.
We sat around and watched Ghost World, except I wasn’t really watching. I just kept on thinking to myself that there was a boy sitting next to me on my bed and he was cute and he was on my bed and sitting next to me. The movie ended without me realizing, and then he asked if I wanted to go for a walk. Even though boys didn’t normally ask me to go for a walk with them, I knew this meant he was going to kiss me soon. I wanted to throw up. I said okay.
My head was essentially blank as we walked around the darkened campus. It was unusually cold for a September night, and I was wishing I had more on me than just a sweater. Dan wasn’t wearing anything over his white Sleater-Kinney t-shirt. I silently wondered to myself if we were going to keep each other warm, wherever it was we ended up. I could tell he was looking for a secluded area, and we wound up under the stairs of Ben Shahn, a building I’d never been in. It was really dark under there and I knew this was it.
He sat down. I sat down. We were Indian-style across from each other. He told me to move closer, so I did. I don’t remember what happened next, but his face was really close to mine. And then his lips were on mine. I pulled away and felt my face flush to beet-red. “I’ve never done this before.” I saw his jaw drop. He didn’t say anything, so I apologized.
“You’re a virgin?” The surprise in his voice was equivalent to that of a child finding where her parents’ hid the Christmas presents. I guess I mumbled a yes or something. I suppressed the need to laugh at the fact someone could possibly see me as someone sexually active. Once he got over his shock, he asked if I wanted to try again. I said okay; at least now I’d made him aware that I was going to be bad at kissing.
Based on Dan’s reaction, I had quite underestimated myself. For someone with no experience aside from knowing how to get out of a car and act like it’s nothing when someone tells you they love you, I was not doing half-bad. So we kept kissing. And then Dan started doing something really weird. He started rubbing my belly. It felt pretty good, but I still felt awkward. It was, after all, the bane of my existence. When we eventually stopped kissing, he asked me what I thought.
“Well, it all felt pretty nice,” I said. I was pretty flustered and probably stammering, but I can’t remember.
“I meant what you thought of this,” he said, touching my belly again.
“Uh, I dunno…” I trailed off. I felt like dying a little bit. Having to confront my body like this was torture. In that moment before he answered, I was completely embarrassed. I wished my fat wasn’t so noticeable. I wished it wasn’t something that needed to be discussed. And then:
“I like it. I like it a lot, actually.” And then he kissed me again.
Dan walked me back to my room, and we saw each other pretty frequently until he eventually asked me out. In those first few weeks of dating, there were a lot of awkward fat-related moments. He told me that he was a Fat Admirer, or an FA for short. I confessed that I didn’t know there were guys like that out there and he laughed at me. I felt pretty silly.
I felt even sillier the first time he pulled me on to his lap. I squirmed to get up; I knew I would crush him. He looked at me like I had five heads, like I was speaking in tongues when I told him I didn’t want to hurt him. Without saying anything, he just patted his lap. I started to shake my head no, but he nodded. So I sat down very, very slowly. Clearly, my fat ass would not hurt him if I was moving at the pace of a snail. We sat like this for a while, watching They Might Be Giants videos on my laptop until I finally stood up and walked over to my bed and sat down.
“You aren’t going to crush me, you know,” he reassured me. I just shrugged and sat there until he came over to lay down with me.
Things were going fine up until our relationship made it to the next level. The level that would require me to be naked in front of him. It was the night after the Student Film Association’s Halloween movie night, and we went back to his room. We were cuddling and eventually he started rubbing my belly – by now, I had become used to this and I actually really liked it. But then he went under my shirt, and I froze.
“You’re so soft,” and he moved down to kiss my belly.
He asked me if it was okay if he could see, and I hesitated. I knew what I looked like under that shirt. I knew that it was not the kind of belly that is allowed on the beach or even in a tight shirt. I knew that my belly had three rolls, and thinking about how it looked was making me feel very anxious in a very bad way.
As if he knew what I was thinking, he said, “It’s not going to gross me out.” So I took off my shirt.
He didn’t say anything at first, but I saw his eyes light up. He started rubbing my belly, squeezing it, kneading it. Belly kisses were to become my favorite thing. It would be another week or so before I lost my virginity to him, but for the first time in my life, I felt really desired, and it felt good. I had no idea that something that had caused me so much shame and grief could now make me so sexy in the eyes of someone else. And I liked that.
The way Dan looked at me when I was naked was almost better than the feeling of actually having sex. He appreciated me, every inch of me – and there were a lot of those. Once I got comfortable enough with him, I let him do silly things – like jiggle me or blow raspberries on my belly. I can’t imagine anyone else being able to relate to something like this unless you are fat and in a relationship with someone who loves it. I don’t think blowing a raspberry on a set of washboard abs has the same effect.
Dan and I dated for two-and-a-half years – our relationship was very flawed, but I’ll save that for another time. However, I gained a lot from being with him, and I do not have any regrets that he was my first boyfriend. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that he’s the reason I can stand in front of the mirror after I get out of the shower without being totally repulsed. Sometimes when I’m talking to my mom she asks me to tone it down because she says I’m “too conceited.”
It’s funny thinking about how awkward our first few dates were; recently, I’ve started seeing another chub-lover, and he was the gauche one at first. My current boyfriend, Matt, has always been attracted to bigger girls, but has never been in a relationship with one, let alone one as confident as me. When we first started dating, we were making out in his car and he “accidentally” felt me up. He stopped kissing me.
“I’m sorry! I thought that was your arm!” And then he looked embarrassed for wanting to squeeze my arm. And then he looked horrified, waiting for my reaction. And then we both started laughing. It’s one of my favorite memories of him, right up there with another time when we were fooling around in his car and he asked me to get on top of him in the driver’s seat.
“Uh, I dunno if I’ll fit,” I told him, eyeing the space between him and the steering wheel.
He said nothing, but reached down and pressed the button on the side of the seat to move it back and accommodate me. I still managed to honk the horn with my ass at some point.
We’re currently eagerly anticipating the release of Fat Princess for PlayStation 3 so we can play it together. I’ll probably sit on his lap while I play